Teenage pregnancy spike in typhoon-hit areas feared
This undated file photo shows two pregnant women.
The STAR/Edd Gumban

Teenage pregnancy spike in typhoon-hit areas feared

Christian Deiparine (Philstar.com) - November 26, 2020 - 4:35pm

MANILA, Philippines — Government should be on the lookout for a possible increase in teenage pregnancy cases in areas badly damaged by the recent typhoons to hit the country, a lawmaker said Thursday.

More than 4.1 million persons had been displaced by Typhoon "Ulysses" (international name Vamco) alone, with 132,252 individuals still in emergency shelters per figures by the NDRRMC. 

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian in a statement called on agencies and local governments for measures to protect young girls in evacuation sites. 

The chairman of the Senate Committee on Education cited a study by the country's national research council that showed around 23.5% of teenage girls in Eastern Visayas getting pregnant after Super Typhoon "Yolanda" (international name Haiyan) ravaged the region in 2013. 

Dr. Gloria Luz Nelson, the author of the said study, reported too that girls between 10 to 19 years old are the "most vulnerable group" during their stay in evacuation centers. 

“Ang epekto ng pandemya ay isa nang posibleng sanhi ng pagdami ng mga batang ina sa bansa," Gatchalian said. "At dahil sa mga nagdaang bagyo, ang mga batang babae sa mga nasalantang lugar ay mas nanganganib na mabiktima ng karahasan, pang-aabuso, at maging mga batang ina."

(A rise in teenage pregnancy cases is already a possible effect by the coronavirus pandemic. And with the recent storms, they are more prone to being victims of violence, abuse and early pregnancy.)

Risks and effects on health

A January 2020 policy brief by the United Nations Population Fund cited a study it commissioned in 2016 that said teenage girls who become mothers before they turn 18 are less likely to complete their high school education, which in turn poses a long-term effect. 

"The non-completion of secondary education impacts employment opportunities in the future and total life earnings of families," the UNPF said.

Early childbearing also carries the risk of poor health both for the mother and child, with teenage mothers often exposed to other health conditions such as anemia, sexually transmitted infections, as well as mental health problems, to name a few.

"Adolescents who become pregnant at an early age have associated risk factors such as having greater age differences with their partners, which may put them at greater risk of domestic violence, as well as acquiring HIV and other STIs," the policy brief continued. 

It added that the Philippines remains with one of the highest adolescent birth rates in Southeast Asia, despite its teenage pregnancy rates going down through the years. 

Baby boom seen in 2021

The recent disasters and the coronavirus pandemic have led the population commission as well to call for the inclusion of family planning in government's response. 

"These would enable couples to have greater capacity to ensure their health, financial stability, and other social protections in the future,” said Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III. "Our resiliency against the pandemic and other related crisis situations starts from our decision to form a family."

The agency back in June had warned as well that some 214,000 babies could be born in 2021 as a result of unplanned pregnancies due to the hard COVID-19 lockdowns ordered in the past months. 

Perez said one factor for this was that hundreds of thousands of women were not able to have access to family planning supplies, and that the services of the commission and health centers were hampered too due to the coronavirus-related curbs. 

“Marami nang mga pagkakataong nakita nating ang mga kalamidad ay nagiging sanhi ng pagdami ng mga batang ina," Gatchalian said. "Kailangan nating tutukan ang bantang ito upang protektahan ang ating mga kabataan at ang kanilang kinabukasan."

(We have seen in many instances that calamities often resulted in the increase in teenage mothers. We have to be prepared for this risk to protect our children and their future.)

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